This week is National Eating Disorder Awareness week so I thought I would clue you in to some of the things going on across the country to show support. Many organizations around the country plan NEDA walks in order to have people come out to support NEDA, unite communities, and raise awareness about eating disorders. Check out NEDA Walk online to find an upcoming walk near you. Also, the Empire State Building will be lit up in NEDA colors green and blue on February 28! Some things going on in Michigan includes Zumbathon, “Someday Melissa” film screening, “America the Beautiful 2” screening, “The Body Monologues,” and more.
Immanuel Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids is still hosting an exhibit from ArtPrize that was created by patients using art therapy in order to answer questions like “What does an eating disorder feel like or look like” and “What does recovery from an eating disorder look like and feel like”( http://www.mieda.org/ArtPrize.html ). Most of this information can be found on NEDA’s website if you are interested in finding something going on near you!
Figuring out how to approach a friend you suspect has an eating disorder is not an easy task. Bringing them to one of the above mentioned activities is one way to approach them but may not be the best way. People struggling with eating disorders have come to me for help but it is not uncommon for family and friends to seek professional help in how to help their loved one either. Here are a few things to consider when you have made the decision to talk to your family member or friend about what they are going though:
1. Set a time to talk: Private, respectful meeting with the friend/family member away from distractions.
2. Communicate your concerns: Share memories of specific times when you were concerned about specific eating or exercise behaviors and why you think it may be a problem that needs professional attention.
3. Ask your friend to explore the mentioned concerns: Whether the loved one sees a counselor, doctor, nutritionist, or other health professional knowledgeable in eating disorders. Offer to make the appointment or accompany the friends.
4. Avoid conflicts or a battle of the wills: The loved one may not acknowledge there is a problem, just be sure to restate your feelings and reasons for concern and leave yourself open to be there when they are ready to talk about it.
5. Avoid placing shame, blame, or guilt: Make sure to not use “You” statements such as “you just need to eat,” or “You are acting irresponsibly.” “I” statements will prove to be much more effective in showing concern such as, “It makes me afraid to hear you vomiting.”
6. Avoid giving simple solutions: Don’t make it seem like it is something they can just flip a switch to turn off.
7. Express your continued support: Remind your friend that you care and want what’s best for them.
Further support and frequently asked questions can be found on NEDA’s (2012) website (http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/index.php).